"Fates, it's cold."
Groaned the ignorant northern noble, the grip of sleep far stronger than he was used to, the rare weight of the only dream he'd had for trials still clinging thickly to his senses. The extreme temperature his body slowly found itself aware in was strikingly similar to the bleak, icy landscape of that very dream. Moving to stretch, Caius realized the chill was real, the scent of tobacco nothing like the familiar comforts of his small hearth at ho—
"Sarding hell. What in the—"
He was up.
Sitting up. Confused. Struggling to free himself from a sleeping bag he'd never owned and sure as the Seven hadn't fallen asleep in. Stared at by some scar-faced, grizzled old thing who'd already decided he was trash by the look on his fekked up face. The cold clawed at him and he only knew one place in all Idalos that had made him long for the warmth of home—Viden. But the pair weren't alone and Caius couldn't shake the icy grip of his dreamscape because in the tent, stirring after him, were all three familiar faces, disconnected by time but known to himself, only one of which could currently be accused of haunting his usually sleepless nights in all the most inappropriate of ways.
This wasn't going to be one of those
dreams, was it? No. He was definitely awake. And that smoking hulk of a man was not at all invited. Too bad.
The young Gawyne considered it his place to speak up, but he found he had no sarding clue was to say, stupid cold in a place they didn't fall asleep in, the only connection to each other as far as he knew seemed to be himself. He didn't even know how they got here ... not unless that scarred up grizzly creature had kidnapped them. He may have looked the kidnapping sort, especially by the way he stared at them. Was this his fault? Surely not.
Finally, Caius cleared his throat, chilled fingers curling into unkempt hair as he looked to the other three who weren't strangers to him, his pale silver gaze washing over all their faces to settle on Darcyanna's last,
Were his first words, as if he anticipated someone's accusation, but he had no explanation to give. No more than anyone else, if asked. He would introduce them to each other, if the Eídisi of his past allowed him to do so or if the Venora of his present gave him a chance. He'd do his best to juggle what was happening in conversation, though his curiosity distracted him greatly and his gaze kept straying to the only other man in the tent until he finally looked at them and spoke up.
The man, Alucard he said his name was, was talking and the northern noble was attempting to put things together: thoughts, words, feelings. His shit. All of it. Trying to get his shit together. But he couldn't, and whatever the scarred up Ranger was saying, Caius was afraid to take it as truth,
"The fu—here?! Where in Idalos is here? By here do you mean Viden? I'm in Viden—we—we're in sarding Viden? How'd we get here? How'd you get here? You can't just go kidnapping people without repercussions! I'll have you know—"
The young Gawyne trailed off then, heart in his throat, tripping over the pack Alucard pointed out in his eagerness to see the map he spoke of, though he couldn't be arsed to give the rude, rough hewn bastard his name if he was just going to be such a prick right out of the gates. Instead, pale blue eyes lingered on the map and his momentary indignant surprise at their location faded into a single word,
He knew why he
was here, but Caius said nothing. He had no clue why anyone else needed to be.
Gritting his teeth, he'd roll up his sleeping bag like an obedient child, sorting the metal type of his thoughts into their proper compartments, desperate to put the Ps and Qs in the right places. He'd then go through what was supposedly his but wasn't, hoping for more warm clothes than anything else. Whatever he found in the pack, he would attempt to make sense of it all, to categorize what seemed useful and layer on whatever hope he could find. Viden in Zi'da was sarding fatal, but he needed something to focus on in order to process whatever was actually happening, feeling like he was freshly set type and someone had ripped the galley tray from underneath him. Scattered lead on the floor. He longed for something familiar, even his saber would do, but also in typical fashion he longed for his notes—
"I'm not here by mistake."
Caius said boldly, aware that those words were immediately and consciously separating him from the three women he knew, "I don't have a sarding clue how I got here, but I know I'm here for a reason. I can only choose to trust the rest of us are, too, though I'd have my Fates-be-damned reservations about you if it weren't for your obvious, uh, experience. Or something like that."
Alucard, by virtue of his rugged appearance and obviously superior outdoorsy, combative skillset clearly considered himself the self-proclaimed leader of their otherwise studious collective, and his rough-hewn speech only served to rub the northern noble in all the wrong directions. If the scarred Ranger knew no more than the other four of them, then he had no sarding right other than perhaps the force of his meatier fist to assume his position. The young Gawyne was quite sure there wasn't enough layers to protect from the cold of the farthest north in Zi'da, and the thought of losing fingers or toes to frostbite horrified the printer's diri beyond what limited, calloused words he could summon ... and that was, quite honestly, the least of his sarding worries.
The kind of weather outside the tent, the actual temperature that greeted his northern, hardy, Gawyne self stole more than just his breath but clawed at his wits, stinging his eyes and wanting to crawl into his lungs and end their function without a hint of apology.
What was the sarding date? Somewhere in the back of his too-busy mind, he already knew. But, again, said nothing.
He understood now, staring at the bleak landscape ice and snow, the hint of what could have been Viden proper on the horizon, what the date in his dream meant.
It meant Oliver Venora would never get to kill him.
"Just a damn moment. Let me sarding see that, arsehole."
Caius hissed, shrugging off the man's promises that they could just walk to Viden for two trials in the deadly cold and forget about whatever the hell was happening. He brazenly ignored the larger, older man's threats to leave them all behind in the Tundra because obviously he could have sarding done that already and he didn't. Either he felt he needed them or he was really, really stupid. The threats only irritated the terrified, worried, confused young Gawyne more, and while he both wanted to stay near his friends, he also couldn't just let some stranger walk all over him. He'd pursued this singular obsession for nearly an entire season!
Wildly, utterly out of his element, the northern noble felt as though his mind was melting like snow in sunlight—right out of his mouth. Nothing was familiar, controlled, reliable. Nothing was expected. And everything smelled horribly of danger. He had no point of reference, and Caius made his inability to cope painfully clear with the confused haughtiness that oozed from his very pores.
It wasn't every trial one fell asleep and woke up so far from home. His ink-stained fingers would attempt to reach for the map Alucard seemed to selfishly want to keep to himself, the printer's diri unwilling to allow himself to be intimidated by the beast of a man though he knew he should have been, "Don't hide that from us. What's on there? I bet I know—Treid's Sanctum? I've been researching for ... well ... a while. I found this book and—sard it all. You don't look like the book type, anyway. Who the Fates do you think you are? Telling us to sod off just because you feel you know what the fek you're doing. You clearly don't or else you would have abandoned us in that damn tent before we even woke up. And you're going to have to slow the hell down—"
Heyyyy ladies. Not the face, okay?